Uncanny Valley (Xbox One) Review

By Nikola Suprak 09.02.2017

Review for Uncanny Valley on Xbox One

A good horror game is always a perfect mix of "Need to keep playing" and "Nope, nope, nope, never playing again." Uncanny Valley, released by developer Cowardly Creations on the PS4 and Xbox One recently, is sadly more of a mix of "Kinda want to keep playing" and "Eh, what else is on TV?" There is the groundwork for a really enjoyable horror experience here, and there is a fairly unique gameplay style here that will likely draw in fans of the horror genre. Ultimately, though, the game comes through feeling a bit awkward and poorly thought out, and, perhaps most disappointing, not all that scary.

Uncanny Valley starts out telling the story of the world's dumbest security guard. He is being terrorised in his dreams by some dark, shadowy figures, and decides to start up a new job as a security guard. On the night shift. By himself. In an abandoned, mysterious mountain facility surrounded by woods and not much else. That isn't a job anyone should take, regardless of how much they're paying to do it. Everyone should have seen enough horror movies by this point to figure out there are at least eight different nightmarish creatures that live in that thing and like to murder anything that is soft and squishy. He is left on his own to explore the mysterious surrounding the facility, uncovering secrets and finding notes and tapes as this creepy adventure slowly unfolds.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on Xbox One

There is an interesting approach to the narrative approach here at first, and it embraces a sort of non-linear style of storytelling that actually makes things a bit creepier. After some brief introductory scenes, it is possible to just sort of explore the facility here without much guidance as to what specifically needs to be done. There is this eerie, almost oppressive atmosphere to the facility that is elevated by the fact that it is initially not entirely clear if what you're doing is right or wrong. The plot is revealed piecemeal through emails and recordings that are laying around, and exploring the facility is perhaps the best part of the game. It is tense and uncertain and weird, basically everything a horror game wants to be. The plot may not be perfect and they tip their hand too much to the point that it is pretty easy to figure out the twists pretty early on in the game, but it does a good job creating this foreboding atmosphere that something can go wrong at any time.

Unfortunately, things start unravelling shortly after things start getting interesting. The game annoyingly keeps a time limit on these exploration segments, and after a certain point the shift is over and it's time to trudge back to the apartment. It is possible to keep exploring, but apparently, the hero of this adventure never heard of caffeine because he will pass out before too long. The game gives you this big, creepy building to explore, but then keeps jumping in the way and ushering you along once things start to get interesting. It isn't entirely clear why it isn't possible just let the player explore at their leisure, but instead the game doesn't want too much discovered too quickly. Presumably this is to encourage subsequent playthrough, but it is more annoying than anything else as it keeps breaking the flow of the adventure.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on Xbox One

The non-linearity is one of Uncanny Valley's strongest features, but it can also get a bit annoying at times. It isn't always clear what the game wants done, and particularly on the first playthrough some players are going to wind up feeling lost. It is also entirely possible and very easy to accidentally wind up doing something that triggers a bad ending, causing the adventure to end prematurely while bad things are shown happening on screen. This is entirely normal for an adventure game and something that many people are likely used to by now, but instead of kicking you back out to the previous room and having a good laugh at your stupidity, the game instead wants to start things all over again from the beginning. It would be a bit more palatable if this was the result of a particularly stupid decision, but some of these are caused by what feels like very natural and normal curiosity on the player's part. "Explore the facility to uncover the mysteries!" the game proclaims, before adding, "Oops wait, not there. Game over, sorry."

There are a couple of other facets to the gameplay here other than the exploration, and after about the halfway point there is some rudimentary combat to engage in and some puzzles to solve. None of these puzzles are particularly challenging and frequently there isn't much more to them than using an object on the obvious object it interacts with, exemplified by one point early in the game where gate cutters are used on a gate. The combat isn't very interesting either, and without spoiling too much it is often better to just run away and hide. An interesting feature is that specific body parts can get wounded at various points in the game. Arms or legs can be broken, and this will directly affect how certain objects can be interacted with. It is integrated into the gameplay fairly well, and does a nice job emphasising caution and further adding to the suspense of the game when something does go wrong.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on Xbox One

Uncanny Valley is a bit on the short side, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it feels like the game wraps up before it should. The brevity of the game is combated somewhat by the fact that it intends there to be multiple playthroughs. The main screen even proclaims "Hey, please play this more than once to get the full experience," like some needy Tinder date that is trying to set up the second date before the first one has even wrapped up.

There are seven endings in total, so those that really get into the game will have plenty to see and do by the time the credits on the last ending wrap up. The issue here is that this isn't really the kind of game that leads itself to multiple playthroughs. The fun in horror games like this is in the unknown, and once the mysteries began unravelling and the curtain is drawn back, a lot of the fun comes peeling off with it. It becomes necessary to slog through the same beginning portion again and again to get to the new bits, and it is likely that only the most dedicated of fans are going to see everything here. It's possible to get the gist from just one ending, making multiple playthrough not only a bit dull, but a bit redundant as well.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The success of any horror game is typically measured in how many scares it draws, or in the general sense of unease it causes. Uncanny Valley almost gets there, but it unfortunately oscillates between somewhat creepy and somewhat dull, which is something a horror game never wants to be. It certainly isn't a bad game, and there is a pretty good start that will draw in any horror fan. Ultimately, it doesn't quite reach the same heights as similar titles, like Lone Survivor, and makes too many questionable design choices to really make much of an impact in the scene. Like any trip to the uncanny valley, this one isn't going to leave anyone particularly satisfied.

Developer

Cowardly Creations

Publisher

Digerati Distribution

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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